Half of all ATMs in the UK will soon charge customers for withdrawing cash, according to HBOS chief executive James Crosby, who was speaking at the Treasury Select Committee's investigation into cash machine charges.
Crosby told MPs that more fee-charging cash machines were being introduced because they generated more revenue for ATM site owners.
But he added that even if the number of fee-charging machines exceeds 50%, the units are unlikely to account for more than five per cent of all ATM transactions. Crosby insisted that HBOS was committed to providing customers with free-to-use cash machines, despite its sale of 814 off-site units to independent ATM operator Cardpoint last year. Cardpoint has since converted 250 machines to its fee paying model, which charge customers around £1.60 for making cash withdrawals.
Benny Higgins, chief executive at Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns fee-charging ATM operator Hanco, was also at the hearing, along with independent ATM operators Cardpoint, Moneybox, Bank Machine and TRM.
Cardpoint chief executive Mark Mills responded to MP's criticism of ATM charges by insisting that growth in fee-charging machines was customer-led and people would rather pay a fee than not have the service at all. But Cardpoint, along with Moneybox, agreed to work to improve the clarity of warning messages attached to fee-charging ATMs.
Committee chairman John McFall also attacked secret voting by the companies that own the Link network, which have previously voted down a resolution put forward by the Nationwide building society calling for clearer labelling of fee-charging cash machines on the network.
Research released by Nationwide in December shows that customers are paying £140 million a year to withdraw money from ATMs, an increase of 133% on the previous 12 months. The building society has been campaigning for clearer labelling on fee-charging ATMs and the introduction of a code of practice for cash machine operators in order to avoid government-imposed regulations.
Commenting on Treasury Select Committee's hearing, Nationwide divisional director, Jeremy del Strother, says there is a lack of commitment from the fee charging operators to make it clear to consumers whether they will be charged for withdrawing their own money.
But del Strother says the hearing "highlighted the lack of enforcement of rules on transparency" and he hopes the industry will move to fill this gap.